VSB Advocacy on the agenda for renwal, May 23rd, 2006

Event: Committee 1 of the VSB
Date: Tuesday, May,23, 2006
Time: 5:30 pm
Place: Room 110, VSB,

Tuesday, May 23 at 5:30 pm in Room 110 of the VSB, the Board of Trustees of the Vancouver School Board will debate a motion on renewed advocacy on behalf of the city’s 50,000 kids. Former VSB Trusttee, Noel Herron, explains why this meeting is of critical importance to the health of public education in Vancouver schools.

In the most complex and diverse school system in this province (indeed in any school district in BC) advocacy is a key and crucial leadership component. The VSB, as a district has literally more of everything –inner city, gifted ,ESL, special education, special needs, urban Aboriginal students, alternative programs at the secondary level, and a host of other programs and services at both elementary and secondary levels.

Over the past four decades the VSB has pioneered programs and services(under boards of varying political persuasions ) that have had a very positive, province-wide, impact. The following are only two examples: lobbying in cooperation with parents’ groups for seismic upgrading of all schools over a10 year period, and; the introduction of inner city programs for disadvantaged kids in 1992. Year after year, the inexorable erosion of many of these programs and services due to financial shortfalls by successive provincial governments.

Currently, the board is faced with the renewal of an activist, ongoing ,and vital advocacy program, started by the previous board, in order to obtain both recognition and funding for its numerous and diverse services. This will be debated May 23 at the first meeting of Committee 1 of the VSB–the only time this premier, coordinating, committee has met in the 7 months since the board’s election last November– and it will determine the direction and strategies that the current board will use and take in the two and a half years of its remaining mandate.

School trustees, in my book, are elected to speak out on behalf of their constituencies and to maintain unrelenting pressure on any government in Victoria, no matter what its political persuasion, in order to obtain the support and resources needed.

Let me be very blunt, any trustee that is willing to throw up his or her hands, with a what-can-we-do-attitude, and accept a supplicant funding role when faced with constant downloading by Victoria is not honouring the wishes of the students or parents they have been elected to represent. Letters of protest are fine, and should be used, but they form only a part of a broadly-based public positions and effective advocacy strategies of a comprehensive advocacy program. Leadership and advocacy should be made of sterner stuff especially when the educational futures of thousands of kids are at stake. That’s why Tuesday evening’s meeting of the VSB is important in the evolution of the city’s public education system.

by Noel Herron